Ah, the cosmos. It contains the whole of everything that is, was and shall be. It is filled with the awe-inspiring beauty of the nebulae, the quasars and the familiar stars. Science cannot know how big the universe is, nor can it count the number of planets or star. Every time we get close to an exact figure, a giant space whale, dubbed Harmony Keeper, starts devouring celestial bodies to maintain the balance. Or at least, that's what this latest action/arcade title from MoFunZone teaches us.
In Harmony Keeper, you take control of this space whale using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move. When you put yourself near a star or planet the whale starts to eat it; how long this takes depends on the size of what you're trying to eat. The goal of each level is to eat the target planet. Each level also has option challenges that range from easy, like eat 25 stars, and to seemingly impossible, like killing a boss in one minute.
You won't be able to just swim, er...float, your way to your goals, because for some crazy reason people don't take kindly to whales devouring their homes. Now, despite its size, the Harmony Keeper doesn't have any defenses of its own. So, you'll have to hit the [spacebar] and use your mana to summon little creatures called guardians. Guardians automatically attack the enemies around them, but you can guide their fire by holding down the left mouse button. With five guardians to choose from and six available slots, you can pick which ones you can build your army based on what you need at the time. Guardians can be upgraded temporarily using mana during the levels and you can also set whether you want a guardian to attack the nearest, farthest, strongest or weakest enemy.
As you eat planets and stars, your Harmony Keeper gets more mana to summon and upgrade guardians, and it also gains experience. With enough experience, you level up and gain skill points. In between levels you spend those points to either beef up your whale or to increase the chances that your guardians will use their special attack.
Analysis: Harmony Keeper scores some major points right out of the gate by having a unique premise. It might be the only game that combines elements of shoot-'em-ups with, well, eating. It is definitely the only one to feature a turquoise space whale. Complimenting the concept is fun gameplay. The first few levels may seem somewhat minimal, but soon you'll be dividing your attention between dodging enemy projectiles, eating stars and aiming your guardian's fire. The guardian system is neat and allows for quite a bit of customization.
As the cherry on top, the game looks good. It has a unique cartoony style that fits the game just right. The bosses are huge and change as they take damage, which shows you that you're making progress and gives you something new and cool to look at. Even small details have been included, such as your guardian changing appearance occasionally when you upgrade it during a level.
Harmony Keeper isn't perfect, however. The music isn't great, but even if it were it wouldn't matter because the sound mix is so uneven that gunfire quickly drowns out the music. The game is also short, only six levels, although you can keep playing after the end, with a new guardian added to your summon menu, to try for any challenges you didn't get. The difficulty curve is a little funky with the first three levels being almost too easy and the last three becoming noticeably more difficult. If you're having trouble, you might have to go back and grind earlier levels so you can beef up your health and guardians. Additional difficulty comes from the fact that your whale isn't exactly svelte. Sometimes you won't be able to dodge incoming projectiles, you'll just have to plow through and hope for the best.
Overall, the good far outweighs the bad in Harmony Keeper. The unique gameplay concepts and excellent art design should be more than enough to get you playing. Just remember what Carl Sagan said, "We are made of star stuff... and star stuff is whale food. Technically, we're all whale food." Really makes you think, huh?